Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Bobby Moore; Texas; Of mice and men and the State of Texas's unscientific lust to kill (even the intellectually disabled); Texas used outdated medical standards in deciding which intellectually disabled people must be spared the death penalty, the U.S. Supreme Court rules: "Writing for the majority in the 5-to-3 decision, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said Texas had failed to keep up with current medical consensus, relied too heavily on I.Q. scores and took account of factors rooted in stereotypes. “Texas cannot satisfactorily explain why it applies current medical standards for diagnosing intellectual disability in other contexts, yet clings to superseded standards when an individual’s life is at stake,” Justice Ginsburg wrote..."Reporter Adam Liptak; New York Times;


STORY: "Texas Used Wrong Standard in Death Penalty Cases, Justices Rule," by reporter Adam Liptak, published by The New York Times on March 28, 2017.



GIST: "The Supreme Court on Tuesday continued a trend toward limiting capital punishment, rejecting Texas’ approach to deciding which intellectually disabled people must be spared the death penalty. Writing for the majority in the 5-to-3 decision, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said Texas had failed to keep up with current medical consensus, relied too heavily on I.Q. scores and took account of factors rooted in stereotypes. “Texas cannot satisfactorily explain why it applies current medical standards for diagnosing intellectual disability in other contexts, yet clings to superseded standards when an individual’s life is at stake,” Justice Ginsburg wrote. She was joined by Justices Anthony M. Kennedy, Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan..........The case, Moore v. Texas, No. 15-797, had attracted some attention for one aspect of Texas’ approach, which was partly drawn from a comparison to the fictional character of Lennie Small, the dim, hulking farmhand in John Steinbeck’s novella “Of Mice and Men.” In 2004, in the decision that set out the standards Texas uses, Judge Cathy Cochran of the Court of Criminal Appeals wrote that Lennie should be a legal touchstone. “Most Texas citizens might agree that Steinbeck’s Lennie should, by virtue of his lack of reasoning ability and adaptive skills, be exempt” from the death penalty, she wrote. When Mr. Moore’s case was argued in November, Justice Sotomayor said he was at least as intellectually disabled as Lennie. “The state had no problem in saying that Lennie, even though he could work, earn a living, plan his trying to hide the death of the rabbit he killed, that he could do all of those things, and yet he was not just mildly, but severely disabled,” she said. The opinions rendered Tuesday did not mention Lennie."

The entire story can be found at:
https://mobile.nytimes.com/2017/03/28/us/politics/texas-death-penalty-supreme-court-ruling.html?_r=0&referer=

PUBLISHER'S NOTE: I am monitoring this case/issue. Keep your eye on the Charles Smith Blog for reports on developments. The Toronto Star, my previous employer for more than twenty incredible years, has put considerable effort into exposing the harm caused by Dr. Charles Smith and his protectors - and into pushing for reform of Ontario's forensic pediatric pathology system. The Star has a "topic" section which focuses on recent stories related to Dr. Charles Smith. It can be found at: http://www.thestar.com/topic/charlessmith. Information on "The Charles Smith Blog Award"- and its nomination process - can be found at: http://smithforensic.blogspot.com/2011/05/charles-smith-blog-award-nominations.html Please send any comments or information on other cases and issues of interest to the readers of this blog to: hlevy15@gmail.com. Harold Levy; Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Commentary: Bill Dillon and all too many other victims of charlatan John Preston " whose dog would supposedly “track” the suspect’s scent, months later or even once underwater — to magically place the suspect where cops needed him to be. Preston did this in more than 30 cases in Brevard before judges in two states declared him a fraud — a fact that should rattle the soul."..."The cases have never been formally re-examined. It is way past time. Journalist Scott Maxwell Florida Today has given new life to this cause with a 14-part series, “Murder on the Space Coast,” where veteran journalist John A. Torres looks at the men who were wrongfully convicted and one, Gary Bennett, who is still behind bars. The stories are all similar."


COMMENTARY: "Brevard’s wrongful convictions still need probing," by Scott Maxwell, published by The Orlando Sentinel on March 28, 2017.

PHOTO CAPTION: "Pam Bondi went on TV in 2010 and promised to probe cases involving a bogus dog handler expert that helped lead to convictions in dozens of cases. In 2017, a whole lot of nothing has happened."


GIST: Nearly a decade ago, Bill Dillon walked out of a prison cell where he had spent 27 years of his life for a crime he didn’t commit. Dillon had been wrongly convicted by cops and prosecutors in Brevard County who were desperate to solve a gruesome murder. After he was convicted, a key witness recanted her testimony. Then, the lead “expert” — a dog-handler whose dog supposedly placed Dillon at the scene of the crime — was exposed as a charlatan who manufactured “evidence” when cops couldn’t make legitimate cases. Finally, DNA evidence proved Dillon’s blood did not, in fact, match the murderer’s.  In 2008, the nation watched as Dillon, who had entered jail a naive 22-year-old, walked out as a 49-year-old man.  The story was almost inspirational. Except it is not. Instead, Dillon’s tale is just one chapter in a dark and twisted story of injustice that still isn’t fully told. Dillon, you see, is just one of three men whose convictions were later overturned — all three convicted by the same prosecution team with help from the same fraudster dog-handler in the 1980s. Yet dozens more men were convicted in the same or similar way. At least one is still behind bars. The cases have never been formally re-examined. It is way past time. Florida Today has given new life to this cause with a 14-part series, “Murder on the Space Coast,” where veteran journalist John A. Torres looks at the men who were wrongfully convicted and one, Gary Bennett, who is still behind bars. The stories are all similar. There was a heinous crime — a particularly violent rape, stabbing or murder. There was a furious public. There were cops and prosecutors desperate to make a case — but short on actual evidence. And there was an unsympathetic suspect — a loner with a history of pot use or maybe drunken driving who didn’t have many resources to defend himself. In every case, the cops brought in the same “expert” — dog handler John Preston, whose dog would supposedly “track” the suspect’s scent, months later or even once underwater — to magically place the suspect where cops needed him to be. Preston did this in more than 30 cases in Brevard before judges in two states declared him a fraud — a fact that should rattle the soul. I spent three years trying to raise attention for this issue from 2009 to 2012. I consider it one of the biggest failures of my journalistic career. No one — Charlie Crist, Rick Scott, former Attorney General Bill McCollum or former State Attorney Norm Wolfinger — would push for answers. They all said that anyone who was wrongfully convicted should get his own lawyer, the same way Dillon did … over the course of 27 years. Finally, I had an idea. In 2010, there was a new race for attorney general. So I approached every candidate running — every Republican and every Democrat. I gave them the history of the cases and asked, if elected, if they would promise to conduct a thorough investigation into every person Preston helped convict. Not a promise of exoneration, mind you. Just a promise to fully probe all the cases where juries had gotten bad information to see if justice had truly been served. Every candidate promised they would … including the eventual winner. Pam Bondi claimed to be so keen on probing the Preston cases, she went on national TV to campaign on the issue. I still remember her calling me on a Saturday night in August of 2010. It was three days before her GOP primary, and Bondi was preparing to go on Geraldo Rivera’s show on Fox News. She wanted all the background on the cases. I helped her. Not because I cared about her campaign, but because I cared about justice. Bondi then went on TV, acting outraged and indignant about Preston’s bogus testimony, telling Rivera: “This guy was using junk science, claiming that this dog could find weapons underwater. It was unreal. Now we learn that there are are at least four people in Florida still in prison!” Bondi made it clear that, if elected, she would conduct a thorough probe herself. But she never did. Though her office said it looked at the cases, it never released any kind of detailed report. A thorough, independent probe is needed. Gov. Rick Scott could order one. So could Bondi. But frankly, after all this time, I think only the feds could provide a thorough, independent examination. One thing that is clear, as Florida Today is reminding us: Justice has not been carried out in Brevard County.

The entire commentary can be  found at:

http://www.orlandosentinel.com/opinion/os-bill-dillon-wrongful-convictions-bondi-scott-maxwell-20170328-story.html

 PUBLISHER'S NOTE: I am monitoring this case/issue. Keep your eye on the Charles Smith Blog for reports on developments. The Toronto Star, my previous employer for more than twenty incredible years, has put considerable effort into exposing the harm caused by Dr. Charles Smith and his protectors - and into pushing for reform of Ontario's forensic pediatric pathology system. The Star has a "topic" section which focuses on recent stories related to Dr. Charles Smith. It can be found at: http://www.thestar.com/topic/charlessmith. Information on "The Charles Smith Blog Award"- and its nomination process - can be found at: http://smithforensic.blogspot.com/2011/05/charles-smith-blog-award-nominations.html Please send any comments or information on other cases and issues of interest to the readers of this blog to: hlevy15@gmail.com. Harold Levy; Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog.

White elephant cases; East Cleveland; Ohio; NBC report: 'Rogue East Cleveland Cops Framed Dozens of Drug Suspects'...Or as Dr. Mike Bowers of CSIDDS (Forensics in Focus) puts it: "Framing the innocent with planted forensics evidence and lying cops."...(A neat exploration of 'group exonerations' HL)..."The Cleveland-area victims are among thousands of people who have been exonerated in cases involving police graft over the last three decades countrywide, from California to Texas, and from New Jersey to Ohio. In Philadelphia, more than 800 people have had their convictions dismissed. The Rampart scandal in Los Angeles in the late 1990s led to at least 150 tossed cases. These "group exonerations" are distinct from the stories of people cleared by DNA or new evidence, a movement led by crusading lawyers who dig into individual cases to expose faulty forensics, false confessions, mistaken identities and official misconduct. Group exonerations rarely attract much attention outside of the communities where they occur. They typically involve people convicted of relatively minor crimes that resulted in short prison sentences or terms of probation. The victims often have criminal records and, if not for the corrupt methods that led to their convictions, may actually have been guilty of a crime. There is no official record of group exonerations, and researchers believe that in some police corruption scandals, authorities don't bother to identify tainted convictions — or tell victims they could be cleared. Even so, the number of people wrongly convicted under such circumstances likely exceeds the more than 2,000 individual exonerations recorded since 1989, according to the National Registry of Exonerations."


"Rogue East Cleveland Cops Framed Dozens of Drug Suspects," by reporter Jon Schuppe, published by NBC News on March 27, 2017; (Thanks to CSIDDS (Forensics in Focus) for bringing this story to our attention. HL);

GIST: "In January 2013, police raided the home of a Cleveland drug dealer, saying in a search warrant that an informant had recently bought crack cocaine there. But the drug dealer had surveillance cameras that proved the officers were lying. He gave the tapes to his lawyer, who showed the FBI. The feds then worked to uncover a massive scandal of a rogue street-crimes unit that robbed and framed drug suspects who felt they had no choice but plead guilty to fraudulent charges. Four years later, authorities are still unwinding the damage. Three cops who worked for the city of East Cleveland are in prison. Cases against 22 alleged drug dealers have been dismissed. Authorities are searching for another 21 people who are eligible to have their convictions tossed. On top of those injustices, there is a slim chance that any of them will be fully reimbursed, because the disgraced officers and their former employer don't have the money. "I always took it on the chin when I got arrested for something I know I did. But when a cop lies to get you in prison, that's a different story," said Kenneth Blackshaw, who was arrested in a 2013 traffic stop and spent two years behind bars before his drug conviction was overturned. ........The Cleveland-area victims are among thousands of people who have been exonerated in cases involving police graft over the last three decades countrywide, from California to Texas, and from New Jersey to Ohio. In Philadelphia, more than 800 people have had their convictions dismissed. The Rampart scandal in Los Angeles in the late 1990s led to at least 150 tossed cases. These "group exonerations" are distinct from the stories of people cleared by DNA or new evidence, a movement led by crusading lawyers who dig into individual cases to expose faulty forensics, false confessions, mistaken identities and official misconduct. Group exonerations rarely attract much attention outside of the communities where they occur. They typically involve people convicted of relatively minor crimes that resulted in short prison sentences or terms of probation. The victims often have criminal records and, if not for the corrupt methods that led to their convictions, may actually have been guilty of a crime. There is no official record of group exonerations, and researchers believe that in some police corruption scandals, authorities don't bother to identify tainted convictions — or tell victims they could be cleared. Even so, the number of people wrongly convicted under such circumstances likely exceeds the more than 2,000 individual exonerations recorded since 1989, according to the National Registry of Exonerations. The vast majority of victims are black — a result that points to national trends in American drug-law enforcement researchers at the registry said in a report issued last month. "As any forger knows, the way to create convincing fakes is to make them look like the real thing," the report's authors wrote. "For drug cases, that means arresting mostly black suspects." The impact is profound. Group exonerations not only undermine crime fighting efforts, but also destroy faith in police and fuel the belief that the justice system treats poor, minority communities unfairly. "What I saw in this case is a legitimate reason for these folks to have these feelings toward law enforcement," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Ed Feran, who prosecuted the East Cleveland officers. East Cleveland is a city in distress, much more so than Cleveland, its larger Rust Belt neighbor. More than 40 percent of its 17,843 residents live in poverty, almost all of them black. Mass demolitions of abandoned homes has left the 3-square-mile city pocked with vacant lots. The median household income is $19,592. The local government is near bankruptcy. That is the atmosphere in which the rogue street crimes unit operated.........Most of the victims mentioned in the federal indictment didn't have private lawyers to push for their release. But the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's Office had just formed a Conviction Integrity Unit, which helped make sure all of the convictions were vacated. Blackshaw was released from prison in February 2016. All three officers were sentenced to prison: Moore got nine years, Malone six and Jones nearly four. In a tearful courtroom apology, Moore said she'd turned rogue in 2011.  That revelation prompted the Conviction Integrity Unit to review all of the officers' work since 2011. They came up with dozens of suspect cases. In some, the officers cited the use of confidential informants without proving their existence. In others, money used for undercover drug purchases, or money seized in arrests or raids, was not properly logged, raising questions about where the cash ended up. Each of the defendants, like Blackshaw, had pleaded guilty. Now they were all eligible to have their cases dismissed. Some of the victims had likely committed drug offenses. But because the entire process was corroded, the cases could no longer be defended in court. Justice required their dismissal. "We didn't go all the way to determine whether they were factually innocent or not," Jose Torres, who heads the unit, said. "We were convinced that they were legally innocent, and that's enough for us." So far, authorities have identified 43 people whose convictions deserved to be tossed. But in order for that to happen, they or a lawyer representing them needs to appear in court to ask a judge to dismiss the charges. Working with the county public defender's office, they've only been able to dismiss convictions for 22 people, Torres said. They've tracked down a couple of others who are expected to appear in court soon. The rest either haven't been found or don't want to come forward. In each case, defense lawyers have insisted on protecting the victim's right to sue for damages. But whether they get any award remains to be seen."

The entire story  can be found at:

http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/rogue-east-cleveland-cops-framed-dozens-drug-suspects-n736671

See also the related CSIDDS (Forensics in Focus) - Framing the innocent with planted forensics evidence and lying cops -  post at the link below: "Not just a myth or a fictional plot line. This article starts in Cleveland OH and references other examples where people ‘of color’ with criminal histories get thrown into jail. In Cleveland, three police went there too. It’s called ‘framing’ the innocent. (click the above pic to go to “Youtube” vid reports on the subject."
 https://csidds.com/2017/03/27/framing-the-innocent-with-planted-forensics-evidence-and-lying-cops/

PUBLISHER'S NOTE: I am monitoring this case/issue. Keep your eye on the Charles Smith Blog for reports on developments. The Toronto Star, my previous employer for more than twenty incredible years, has put considerable effort into exposing the harm caused by Dr. Charles Smith and his protectors - and into pushing for reform of Ontario's forensic pediatric pathology system. The Star has a "topic" section which focuses on recent stories related to Dr. Charles Smith. It can be found at: http://www.thestar.com/topic/charlessmith. Information on "The Charles Smith Blog Award"- and its nomination process - can be found at: http://smithforensic.blogspot.com/2011/05/charles-smith-blog-award-nominations.html Please send any comments or information on other cases and issues of interest to the readers of this blog to: hlevy15@gmail.com. Harold Levy; Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Keith Harward: Prof. Brandon L. Garrett (University of Virginia law school) explains in 'The Baffler' how forensic dentistry nearly cost Keith Harward his life...."Throughout the case’s long trek through the appeals system, the bite-mark testimony retained a tenacious hold on jurists. On appeal, the Virginia court said: “Both forensic dentists testified that all gross characteristics of spacing, width, and alignment of Harward’s teeth ‘fit on the money’ the photographs of bite marks.” Harward was released last year, aged sixty, after spending thirty-three years in prison. DNA testing cleared his name and definitively matched another person, Jerry L. Crotty, who died in prison in Ohio over a decade ago, while serving time for burglary and kidnapping. What went wrong? The dentists provided a story that fit what the prosecutors wanted—a conviction. “It’s just heartbreaking to think that more than half of his life was spent behind bars when he didn’t belong there,” state attorney general Mark Herring said after Harward’s release. “The Commonwealth can’t give him back those years, but we can say that we got it wrong, that we’re sorry and that we’re working to make it right.” But what, exactly, has been done to make it right? The attorney general and the courts all promptly released Harward. The State of Virginia will probably offer him compensation. But so far, Virginia law enforcement and prosecutors have not banned the use of unreliable forensics like bite-mark testimony, as the Texas Forensic Science Commission has done."... Issue 34. (2017):


STORY "Inside the great forensic-science boondoggle," by Brandon L.  Garrett, published in Issue 34 of The Baffler. (2017); (Thanks to Mike Bowers at CSIDDS (Forensic In Focus) for bringing this important commentary to our attention.)

GIST: "As the broad echoes of the same basic story of expert hubris and misguided evidence-handling play out in the transcripts, over and over again, I re-experience some of the initial shock of my first in-depth review of a forensics-driven miscarriage of justice: the death-penalty case of Keith Harward, convicted on rape and murder charges in 1982, chiefly on testimony from two dentists about bite marks left on a victim’s legs. It is no exaggeration to say that forensic dentistry nearly cost Keith Harward his life. Starting in the 1970s, dentists versed in the basics of dental identification started to develop a lucrative sideline: offering expert forensic testimony in criminal cases. Criminal scientists had long had the ability to pursue basic mouth-related inquiries, such as matching pristine molds of teeth to identify remains. But these new experts, known as “forensic odontologists,” claimed to be able to match a suspect’s teeth to human bite marks, in the macabre kinds of assault and murder cases where such evidence looms large. The two dentists who testified in Harward’s case, Lowell Levine and Alvin Kagey, couldn’t have been more confident in their conclusions. They said Harward’s teeth had to have made the marks. Levine, in particular, was nationally known as an expert in forensic bite-mark analysis and in the forensic sciences more generally. When I briefly noted in an article I wrote in 2009 that there were invalid forensic findings in the Harward case, I had no idea that Harward was still in prison and that he had claimed his innocence for decades. In fact, right around the time I came across his trial records, he had written to the Innocence Project seeking new DNA testing to prove those dentists wrong. The results of the DNA testing would upend a battery of expert forensic evidence that had seemed to pin him down as the biter. Harward was twenty-six when the crime occurred, in 1982, in Newport News, Virginia. In the early morning, a man broke into a family’s home near the Navy yards, beat the husband to death with a crowbar, and raped his wife. During the assault, he bit her thighs and calves repeatedly. After the victim was able to summon the police to the scene, they recovered sperm from her T-shirt, and they also swabbed and photographed the bite marks on her legs. She was never able to identify the person who assaulted her, but described him as a white male who was wearing a white sailor’s uniform that had a symbol on it with three nested V’s. That symbol sounded a lot like the insignia of an E-3 Naval sailor. The USS Carl Vinson, a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, was at the Navy yards, and it had thousands of sailors on board.
A hunt for viable Navy suspects rapidly ensued, in what local media dubbed “the bite-mark case.” The police did a bite-mark dragnet of all the E-3 sailors. Harward was one of more than 1,000 E-3 sailors stationed on the Vinson. Apparently between 1,100 and 3,000 sailors on the Vinson were asked to provide dental records for comparison. In fact, one of those sailors was the actual culprit, but the bite experts didn’t detect him. Nor did they find evidence linking the crime to Harward. The bite-mark case remained unsolved for months, for sound scientific reasons. Comparing bite marks is not easy. People with a full set of teeth have thirty-two teeth, each with multiple surfaces. Each set of teeth carries a great deal of forensic information, which is why postmortem dental plates can be effective in identifying a corpse. However, a bite mark has a lot less information. We bite only with our front teeth: maybe four or eight teeth, and just the edges of those, are used to bite. What’s more, a bite mark in human skin may not preserve much information. To put things euphemistically, a biting situation may be “dynamic.” The parties in a biting encounter are typically moving around, struggling to either inflict or avoid a bite. To complicate matters further, skin is highly elastic and does not perfectly preserve information like a plaster dental mold would. Skin also reacts to injuries, by swelling and bruising. It can be hard to tell whether bite marks were made by a human at all. Decomposition, for one thing, greatly affects skin. In the Mississippi case of Kennedy Brewer, convicted of murder and sentenced to death in 1995, an odontologist who testified frequently in Mississippi claimed that only Brewer could have made bite marks. In fact, the marks turned out to be insect bites on the victim’s body, which was, after all, found in a creek. In 2008, new DNA testing exonerated Brewer. Such fundamental uncertainty “may severely limit the validity of forensic odontology,” as the National Academy of Sciences concluded in its landmark 2009 report. This finding, crucially, doesn’t apply only to bite marks; all crime scene forensics can lack the information that pristine lab conditions might permit. Fingerprints may be smudged or partial. DNA may be mixed with several people’s genetic material, or degraded. But bite marks were always known to be especially difficult to compare. Months after the crime in Newport News, police came across what they believed was a pivotal break in the case. Harward was in court because a fight with his girlfriend had turned violent—she reported that he had bit her during the fight. Now the police thought they had their biter. They brought the victim in the bite-mark case to the courtroom in Harward’s domestic dispute—but she could not identify him. So they tried to get Harward to confess. He wouldn’t. “The detectives, all through the whole situation, tried their best to convince me to admit to something I didn’t do,” Harward said. The cops were so determined to link Harward to the crime that they hypnotized a security guard at the Navy base—and a full seven months after the crime, he identified Harward’s mugshot as that of the person whom he saw returning to the shipyard in the early morning after the murder. Enter forensic odontology. The two dentists, Kagey and Levine, testified that the bite mark matched Harward’s teeth. They told the jury that they were totally certain. Levine testified to a “very, very, very high degree of probability” that Harward’s teeth left the bite mark. Kagey testified that “there is just not anyone else that would have this unique dentition.” It was, Levine said, a “practical impossibility”—yes—“that someone else would have all [the] characteristics in combination.” They described all this in detail. They explained how they compared Polaroid images from the victim to Harward’s dental mold. They said Harward had unusual and distinctive characteristics on his teeth. One of his teeth “canted sideways” and there was a “hook type area” that seemed to match the bite mark. There was a “chipped area” and a “breakage” that aligned perfectly, they said. There were “no discrepancies.” Could that be true? Could no one else in the world have left those bite marks? How high a degree of probability is “very, very, very high”? Does that mean one in a million? One in a billion? One in a thousand? The dentists couldn’t have answered those questions, because no one knows. There were not, and still are not, any databases of bite marks. Tracing the configuration of bite marks is nothing like DNA testing, where demographic studies and statistical analysis can, with great precision, identify what segments of the population share certain genetic markers. Statistics can be used to express a DNA comparison result, but not a bite comparison. There are no population studies on bite marks, nor are there any statistics that can offer airtight identifications from other forensics far more commonly used today, such as fingerprints or ballistics. In an interview with the Richmond Times-Dispatch after Harward’s exoneration, Kagey explained, “At that time, bite-mark analysis was new, relatively, and there was a lot of publicity about it,” adding that “I never say about a bite mark [now], ‘He or she is the only person that could have done this.’” As a result of cases such as Harward’s, along with the West Memphis Three conviction, which also hinged on bite-mark testimony that has since been thoroughly discredited, the American Board of Forensic Odontology no longer recognizes the validity of testimony that claims total certainty. For years, the board’s guidelines allowed examiners to say that this set of teeth made that bite, to the exclusion of all other sets of teeth in the world. It was only after the National Academy of Sciences issued its 2009 report discrediting such claims that the board members changed their tune. In one important win for scientific rigor, forensic odontologists have conceded that the word “match” should not be used. Today they say, “Terms assuring unconditional identification of a perpetrator, or identification ‘without doubt,’ are not sanctioned as a final conclusions.” Instead, the dentist can say that the person “could have” created the bite marks. Nevertheless, the overall effect of the revised, and exasperatingly vague, odontologist guidelines is to continue offering cover to a multitude of sins. There are simply no standards for how much evidence it takes to conclude that bite marks “match” or even are “generally similar.” What makes the marks generally similar? What are the criteria? There are none in the field. As the Innocence Project later asserted in connection with the Harward case: “Despite the fact that for decades courts have permitted forensic dentists to testify in criminal trials, there is a complete lack of scientific support for claims that a suspect can be identified from an injury on a victim’s skin.” And this was but a restatement of the National Academy of Science’s 2009 declaration: “The scientific basis is insufficient to conclude that bite-mark comparisons can result in a conclusive match. There was more in the way of forensics in Harward’s case—and none of it implicated the suspect. None of the fingerprints that police lifted from the scene matched Harward. An expert from the Virginia crime lab also testified that blood typing on the semen evidence was inconclusive, and blood types on cigarette butts found at the scene did not match Harward. None of the hairs found in the house matched Harward. The victim could not identify Harward as her attacker. Nor had the victim described a person with a moustache, which Harward wore at the time.
But the bite marks impressed the jury, which convicted Harward of capital murder. When an appeals court later reversed Harward’s conviction on technical grounds concerning the interpretation of Virginia’s death penalty statute, a new jury sentenced Harward to life in prison. Throughout the case’s long trek through the appeals system, the bite-mark testimony retained a tenacious hold on jurists. On appeal, the Virginia court said: “Both forensic dentists testified that all gross characteristics of spacing, width, and alignment of Harward’s teeth ‘fit on the money’ the photographs of bite marks.” Harward was released last year, aged sixty, after spending thirty-three years in prison. DNA testing cleared his name and definitively matched another person, Jerry L. Crotty, who died in prison in Ohio over a decade ago, while serving time for burglary and kidnapping. What went wrong? The dentists provided a story that fit what the prosecutors wanted—a conviction. “It’s just heartbreaking to think that more than half of his life was spent behind bars when he didn’t belong there,” state attorney general Mark Herring said after Harward’s release. “The Commonwealth can’t give him back those years, but we can say that we got it wrong, that we’re sorry and that we’re working to make it right.” But what, exactly, has been done to make it right? The attorney general and the courts all promptly released Harward. The State of Virginia will probably offer him compensation. But so far, Virginia law enforcement and prosecutors have not banned the use of unreliable forensics like bite-mark testimony, as the Texas Forensic Science Commission has done.".........Meanwhile, scientists and researchers have started to make strides to improve forensics and how they are used in courtrooms. But as the White House report concluded, this isn’t a question of mere incremental tinkering. The present, scandalously unreliable state of forensic inquiry is unlikely to change unless and until the relevant pseudo-authorities are held truly accountable for the consequences of their actions. “They weren’t looking for the truth. They were looking for a conviction,” Keith Harward said after he was exonerated. No one could be bothered to listen to Harward during his 1982 trial, when it counted most for him. It is high time that we heed the lesson of his ordeal now. [*] You can read this testimony in an online archive I’ve constructed at convictingtheinnocent.com."

The entire commentary can be found at:

 https://thebaffler.com/salvos/trials-and-errors-garrett

PUBLISHER'S NOTE: I am monitoring this case/issue. Keep your eye on the Charles Smith Blog for reports on developments. The Toronto Star, my previous employer for more than twenty incredible years, has put considerable effort into exposing the harm caused by Dr. Charles Smith and his protectors - and into pushing for reform of Ontario's forensic pediatric pathology system. The Star has a "topic" section which focuses on recent stories related to Dr. Charles Smith. It can be found at: http://www.thestar.com/topic/charlessmith. Information on "The Charles Smith Blog Award"- and its nomination process - can be found at: http://smithforensic.blogspot.com/2011/05/charles-smith-blog-award-nominations.html Please send any comments or information on other cases and issues of interest to the readers of this blog to: hlevy15@gmail.com. Harold Levy; Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog.

Duane Buck: Texas: Catch-up: Houston Press: Supreme Court Gives Duane Buck a New Chance to Appeal His Death Sentence...""Duane Buck has long argued that a Harris County jury sentenced him to death by lethal injection partly because of racial prejudice after a psychologist called by his own attorney testified that Buck was more likely to commit more violent crimes because he is black. Now, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that Buck, the Houston man who brutally murdered his ex-girlfriend and her new boyfriend in 1995, may continue to appeal his death sentence. "

 
STORY: "Supreme Court Gives Duane Buck a New Chance to Appeal His Death Sentence," by reporter Dianna Wray, published by The Houston Press on February 22, 2017. (Dianna Wray, a nationally award-winning journalist, is a staff writer at the Houston Press. Born and raised in Houston, she writes about everything from NASA to oil to horse races.)


http://www.houstonpress.com/news/supreme-court-gives-duane-buck-a-new-chance-to-appeal-his-death-sentence-9220173

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Annie Dookhan: Massachusetts: Bulletin: Boston Globe Investigative reporter Shawn Musgrave reports that most drug cases handled by the former state chemist have been vacated as the saga nears its end........."District attorneys say their top priority in reviewing cases is public safety, and they might try to preserve some convictions under non-felony charges in lower courts if that means they can keep a violent offender behind bars. But prosecutors face a tough evidentiary burden to keep convictions in any cases handled by Dookhan. For all undismissed cases, the district attorneys must certify they could prove the defendant's guilt without using evidence that was tainted by Dookhan's dubious testing or testimony. That would be particularly difficult for older cases in which drug samples were destroyed years ago, or cases where the defendant pleaded guilty only after receiving results from Dookhan's analysis. All defendants whose convictions remain in place must be notified by mid-May, under the SJC's order." March 25, 2017.

Most drug cases handled by former state chemist Annie Dookhan have been vacated as case nears end - The Boston Globe
"The vast majority of drug cases potentially tainted by former state chemist Annie Dookhan will be vacated by mid-April, with just a few hundred convictions out of 24,000 remaining on the books, according to district attorneys. The prosecutors have been working on a 90-day deadline issued in January by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court to produce shortened lists of Dookhan convictions they believe must stay in place and are getting close to concluding......... Dookhan, who was responsible for testing drugs in about 40,000 cases at the former Hinton laboratory in Jamaica Plain from 2003 to 2012, admitted to more than two dozen charges of tampering with evidence and fabricating results. She served three years in prison, for perjury and evidence-tampering, before she was released on parole last year. Since Dookhan's misconduct came to light in 2012, defense advocates have called for erasing convictions in any case she touched. They argued that the scale of her tampering made case-by-case appeals unworkable because the process would require far too many public defenders.  The January SJC ruling pushed prosecutors toward dismissing Dookhan cases in bulk, but declined to wipe all defendants' slates clean. The court gave DAs in all seven districts an April 18 deadline to determine which convictions to dismiss and which to keep. The court made clear that prosecutors were to "reduce substantially" the number of defendants who might challenge their convictions because of Dookhan's crimes. It is not the "global" dismissal defense advocates sought, but some said they were pleased that as many as 95 percent or more of Dookhan cases may be vacated. "Even the possibility that this might happen means that anyone who cares about criminal justice in Massachusetts ought to be paying attention to April 18," said Matthew Segal, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts, whose clients' lawsuit led to the SJC ruling. The court reserved the right in its ruling to dismiss additional cases if the prosecutors do not dismiss enough cases.........The unanswered questions are which convictions will remain in effect and whether individual Dookhan defendants with standing cases will appeal in court. According to one data analysis conducted by the ACLU of Massachusetts and cited by the SJC, a majority of Dookhan defendants were convicted on drug possession charges alone. Approximately 90 percent of convictions were misdemeanors or minor felonies for which defendants had already served their time, that data indicated. District attorneys say their top priority in reviewing cases is public safety, and they might try to preserve some convictions under non-felony charges in lower courts if that means they can keep a violent offender behind bars. But prosecutors face a tough evidentiary burden to keep convictions in any cases handled by Dookhan. For all undismissed cases, the district attorneys must certify they could prove the defendant's guilt without using evidence that was tainted by Dookhan's dubious testing or testimony. That would be particularly difficult for older cases in which drug samples were destroyed years ago, or cases where the defendant pleaded guilty only after receiving results from Dookhan's analysis. All defendants whose convictions remain in place must be notified by mid-May, under the SJC's order."

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Dean Christopher Roberts: British Columbia: Courthouse news presents a 'murder case involving “uncharted territory” in Canadian law' - a British Columbia man convicted of killing his family in 1995 (following a confession obtained during a 'Mr. Big sting operation') claims that prosecutors are denying his legal team access to evidence for DNA testing that may prove his innocence..."“In other countries, there is authority, there are statutes or policies about post-conviction disclosure and DNA testing,” Campbell said. “In Canada, we don’t have very much legal authority in this area, so that’s why this case is so interesting. It’s kind of uncharted territory in this country.” Use of the Mr. Big sting and scanty physical evidence puts the conviction on shaky ground, Campbell said. Though Roberts appealed unsuccessfully in 1997, Campbell added. Mr. Big stings can produce dubious confessions. “Because of the tactics and the very strong incentives that are offered during these Mr. Big investigations, it can lead to confessions that may be unreliable, so that’s why they’re controversial. And this was one of the early Mr. Big cases in British Columbia, so it’s one of the first of its kind, and I think they do things differently now than they did back in those days,” Campbell added. “In this case, the conviction was based mainly on a Mr. Big confession. There was very little evidence other than the Mr. Big confession.”


STORY: "DNA murder case charts new ground," by reporter Darryl Greer, published by Courthouse News on March 24, 2017;

GIST: "In a murder case involving “uncharted territory” in Canadian law,  Dean Christopher Roberts was convicted in 1995 of the July 1994 murders of his wife and infant sons in the small community of Cranbrook in Southeastern British Columbia. In his March 17 petition to the British Columbia Supreme Court, Roberts asks the court to order the province’s attorney general to make exhibits from his case available for testing, including a cigarette butt found near the body of his son Josiah, fingernail clippings from the body of his wife Susan, ropes found on the necks of Josiah and Susan, and bags near where their bodies were found. Roberts’ conviction rested upon a confession made to undercover police officers in a controversial “Mr. Big” sting, where police pose as high-level underworld crime figures who goad suspects into admitting past criminal conduct, according to the 6-page petition. Roberts’ attorney Jeffrey Campbell told Courthouse News in a phone interview that case law involving post-conviction testing of evidence is scant in Canada. “In other countries, there is authority, there are statutes or policies about post-conviction disclosure and DNA testing,” Campbell said. “In Canada, we don’t have very much legal authority in this area, so that’s why this case is so interesting. It’s kind of uncharted territory in this country.” Use of the Mr. Big sting and scanty physical evidence puts the conviction on shaky ground, Campbell said. Though Roberts appealed unsuccessfully in 1997, Campbell added. Mr. Big stings can produce dubious confessions. “Because of the tactics and the very strong incentives that are offered during these Mr. Big investigations, it can lead to confessions that may be unreliable, so that’s why they’re controversial. And this was one of the early Mr. Big cases in British Columbia, so it’s one of the first of its kind, and I think they do things differently now than they did back in those days,” Campbell added. “In this case, the conviction was based mainly on a Mr. Big confession. There was very little evidence other than the Mr. Big confession.”"

The entire  story can be found at:

PUBLISHER'S NOTE: I am monitoring this case/issue. Keep your eye on the Charles Smith Blog for reports on developments. The Toronto Star, my previous employer for more than twenty incredible years, has put considerable effort into exposing the harm caused by Dr. Charles Smith and his protectors - and into pushing for reform of Ontario's forensic pediatric pathology system. The Star has a "topic" section which focuses on recent stories related to Dr. Charles Smith. It can be found at: http://www.thestar.com/topic/charlessmith. Information on "The Charles Smith Blog Award"- and its nomination process - can be found at: http://smithforensic.blogspot.com/2011/05/charles-smith-blog-award-nominations.html Please send any comments or information on other cases and issues of interest to the readers of this blog to: hlevy15@gmail.com. Harold Levy; Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog.